Candide, Or, OptimismBook - 2005
Voltaire may have cast a jaundiced eye on eighteenth-century Europe-a place that was definitely not the "best of all possible worlds." But amid its decadent society, despotic rulers, civil and religious wars, and other ills, Voltaire found a mother lode of comic material. And this is why Peter Constantine's thoughtful translation is such a pleasure, presenting all the book's subtlety and ribald joys precisely as Voltaire had intended.
The globe-trotting misadventures of the youthful Candide; his tutor, Dr. Pangloss; Martin, and the exceptionally trouble-prone object of Candide's affections, Cunégonde, as they brave exile, destitution, cannibals, and numerous deprivation, provoke both belly laughs and deep contemplation about the roles of hope and suffering in human life.
The transformation of Candide's outlook from panglossian optimism to realism neatly lays out Voltaire's philosophy-that even in Utopia, life is less about happiness than survival-but not before providing us with one of literature's great and rare pleasures.
From the Hardcover edition.
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"Candide" by Voltaire, read by Jack Davenport
Candide is cast out and must make his way in life, having been taught that "All is for the best in the best of all possible worlds," but finds that there is much that is wretched, unjust, and painful; along the way he meets up with a series of coincidences that would be a perfect fit in any Dan Brown novel, but here used for comic effect.
I recently read a book that billed itself as inspired by Candide, so I decided to read the original. (I should have started with this one and not read the other.) This is seriously laugh-out-loud funny. Wish I had read it in high school. The voice the reader used for Candide reminded me of a young Michael Palin, so that's who I imagined throughout, which was perfect.
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